What is a primary color? What about black and white?


Colors affect our mood and can even help us feel more comfortable. In many cultures, colors have special meaning. Your favorite color also says a lot about your personality. Colors are essential in our lives because they relate to light. What is color and what is not? What is a primary color? What do we mean by subtractive or additive light? And finally, are black and white colors properly speaking?

What is a primary color?

There are three basic colors in painting and other visual arts: red, blue, and yellow. They are also called primary colors because they cannot be created from other colors. Primary colors form the basis of color theory and color mixing in art, as these three colors are the building blocks from which most other colors can be created.

In painting, the designation of the primary color includes the three color families red, blue and yellow. The term “red” is therefore only the suitcase term for the entire red color spectrum, which consists of many red hues. The same applies to the designations “blue” and “yellow”. Conversely, it also means that the mixture of two primary colors can be very different depending on the colors chosen. Ultimately, these secondary colors also have a color spectrum with different hues.

Primary colors and the chromatic circle

The three primary colors form the central points of the color wheel. Secondary colors are created by mixing two of the primary colors. A primary color mixed with the neighboring secondary color gives a tertiary color.

Primary colors and color mixtures

If you mix different shades of two primary colors together, you get different secondary colors. For example, if you mix a red of a certain shade with a yellow of a singular shade, the exact shade of the secondary color orange will not be the same as if you choose another shade of red and yellow. The quantities of the starting colors are also important in each mixture. Half the proportions are necessary for a balanced mixture.

Subtractive vs additive primary colors

The primary colors of the painting are subtractive. In other words, they absorb (subtract) light from the visible spectrum and reflect the color that we actually see. Accordingly, black means the absence of all spectral colors. If you mix the three primary colors together, the result is an almost black dark brown color, as much of the light in the visible spectrum is absorbed.

The effect of a primary color can also be weakened or neutralized by mixing it with its complementary color, since this complementary color is a combination of the other two primary colors. Primary colors in color are different from primary colors in light. This is called additive mixing of colors. Simply put, this means: the more colors of light added to a ray of light, the closer it gets to pure white light.

Why are black and white not really colors?

Colors are created by light: light is made up of electromagnetic waves. If they strike an object, they will be partially absorbed, and partially reflected, that is to say rejected. A yellow car reflects yellow light, a red flower reflects red light. This is why we perceive them as yellow or red. But it only works because white light contains all the colors. The trick with the prism: if white light hits a prism, the entire spectrum of colors contained within it becomes visible. From red to orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. Water drops work the same way.

Therefore, when sunlight hits a rain wall, we see a rainbow. Black, on the other hand, swallows all the light. Usually black things are not 100% black. Black velvet swallows most of the light. White reflects all light: even walls, leaves or white shirts are never 100% white. Fresh snow reflects a lot of light, which is why it looks crisp white. We now know why black and white are not considered colors in physics. However, in everyday life we ​​can speak of white as a trendy color or black as a color of mourning.

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